It’s a debate that seems to have been rumbling on for sometime, but thankfully the end is now in sight. By the end of the month we should finally be told who will be allowed to take over the running over of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford after the games in 2012. The shortlist of candidates is, well, very short and consists only of bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham.
Both sides have now officially submitted their plans and it is Tottenham’s that has stirred the most controversy. Their idea to move 4.9 miles (as the crow flies), and crucially remove the athletics track, has sparked outrage from all sides, from your average Joe down the pub to the highest echelons of government. The MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, has urged David Cameron to lead a parliamentary debate on the Olympic legacy and back the group ‘We are N17’, a group set up by Spurs fans in protest of the proposed move away from White Hart Lane. Cameron respectively declined.
As with any change of premises, be it moving family home or football stadium, there are a lot of scary looking figures involved. The one that stood out for me as I trawled the internet for stories about this very subject was that Spurs estimate that moving to the Olympic Stadium, as opposed to redeveloping White Hart Lane, will save them roughly £200 million. The word ‘million’ is thrown about a lot in football nowadays. You rarely see a number without the word ‘million’ suffixed, and as such fans have become somewhat immune to the vastness of it, but £200,000,000 is an astounding sum of money and an amount that I can’t even comprehend. Spurs’ redevelopment of the Lane has been given the green light by the powers that be, but the costs involved in the ‘Northumberland Development Project’ have spiralled and problems still persist with the local council and the inadequate transport links. In a nutshell, Tottenham’s plans to tear down much of the Olympic Stadium, remove the track, redevelop Crystal Palace athletics stadium and establish an athletics legacy fund will cost around £250 million, while the White Hart Lane project will cost around £450 million.
In football money doesn’t talk, it runs around shouting and screaming until its throat is sore and bloody. Money is the backbone of everything in the modern game and very little happens without a substantial amount of it changing hands – why else would ITV or Channel 5 be allowed to broadcast live matches? As a result, a pretty convincing argument can be made for Spurs fans to back their Olympic bid on the basis of these monetary findings.
Tottenham are in the midst of their most important era in modern memory. After years (and years!) of waiting, the lilywhites have finally broken away from the shackles of mid-table obscurity and that feeling of perpetual disappointment, to breaking in to football’s elite. The footballing world shouldn’t underplay what a great achievement it is for Spurs to progress as group winners into the knockout-stages of the Champions League, let’s not forget that just over two years ago they were bottom of the Premier League with two points from…how many games Harry? So when the team needs the maximum amount of investment possible in order to keep challenging at the top end of the league, saving £200 million could prove to be vital. A quick look at ‘them lot down the road’ will show what the wider costs that building a new stadium can entail. With all things considered, The Emirates Stadium is thought to have cost the Gunners around £470 million and it is generally accepted that this massive investment has significantly limited the transfer funds available to Arsene Wenger since 2004. It is undeniable that Arsenal needed a new stadium in order to become more financial competitive on a global scale and that Arsene Wenger has done fantastically well on the budget that he has had to work with, but imagine the talent that they could have attracted if Wenger had had more funds at his disposal. Arsenal didn’t have much of a choice, but Tottenham do. I’d hate to see Tottenham fall back behind the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea et al. because they don’t have the financial clout to compete for the best players.
Leaving White Hart Lane will be a shame, but changing stadiums doesn’t have to be the time of mourning that many seem to be preparing themselves for. Ask Southampton, Leicester and Manchester City fans if they’d fancy a return to the days of The Dell, Filbert Street or Maine Road and they’d tell you that they’ve settled into their new stadiums quite nicely thank you. The long and distinguished history of White Hart Lane is one to be immensely proud of, but football moves on and unless Tottenham move with it they are in danger of moving backwards as quickly as they bounded forward.